Any prediction as to which potential star will develop into the Most Valuable Player on the 2011 Kansas University football team is no easy task.
The MVP likely but won’t necessarily come from the pool of the following dozen, listed in alphabetical order: wide receiver D.J. Beshears, tight end Tim Biere, cornerback Greg Brown, center Jeremiah Hatch, inside linebacker Steven Johnson, safety Bradley McDougald, running back Darrian Miller, defensive end/outside linebacker Toben Opurum, receiver Daymond Patterson, running back James Sims, safety Keeston Terry, and inside linebacker Darius Willis.
As for the best nickname on the roster, that’s no contest.
Greg “Lockdown” Brown has that distinction locked down. A coach at powerhouse Cedar Hill High in Texas pinned the moniker on him his junior year in high school, when the team won the state title. As a KU starter the last five games of 2010, Brown started to show he had the potential to develop into that rare commodity: a lockdown cornerback. As a bonus, he loves to hit, as he proved with 10 tackles against Nebraska.
Lockdown Brown. Nice ring to it.
“It’s a good sound,” Brown agreed. “I like it. I try to go by it, and if I try to go by it, I have to live up to it. It can’t be just all talk.”
Aside from speed and agility, confidence ranks as a cornerback’s most vital asset. By not running from such an aggressive nickname, Brown has set high expectations for himself. He embraces the challenge of taking on the long, strong, fleet receivers that come his way every week in the Big 12. Cornerbacks can’t play scared, can’t let giving up one big play shake them in a way that leads to a confidence crisis.
A productive special-teams player as well, Brown quickly is mentioned in any conversation about the team’s fastest players. He knows speed when he sees it and insists that all this talk about a faster team than a year ago has substance.
“The recruiting class that came in, they can run,” Brown said. “And I see a lot more quickness out of our defense, the linebacker corps, the secondary, even the D-line is running to the football. Much faster defense this year.”
Specifically, who looks faster?
“Toben Opurum looks fast,” Brown said.
That makes sense. During a sophomore season packed with position changes, Opurum had to think a lot, which inevitably results in hesitating. Now that his defensive mind has advanced, his speed is showing.
“Steven Johnson and Darius Willis, our inside linebackers, give us more speed as a defense,” said Brown, a junior in his fourth year in the program. “You don’t really see middle linebackers moving fast. These guys are moving fast to the ball.”
“We have the fastest linebacker corps since I’ve been here,” Brown said. “Tunde Bakare, he’s real fast. Huldon Tharp, when he comes in, he looks fast. Prinz Kande, he’s undersized, but he’s a fast linebacker.”
Lack of speed ranked as the No. 1 factor in last season’s blowout losses. It takes more than getting faster to turn a 3-9 team into a winner, but it’s a nice place to start.